Ecstatic Martin's thrilling recovery

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The Independent Online

None of the glad-handing going on over here, where Al Gore, George W Bush and Hillary Clinton are seeking political office and the world's leaders are in town for the Millennium Summit, can compare with Todd Martin's victory parade in the early hours of yesterday.

None of the glad-handing going on over here, where Al Gore, George W Bush and Hillary Clinton are seeking political office and the world's leaders are in town for the Millennium Summit, can compare with Todd Martin's victory parade in the early hours of yesterday.

Wild-eyed with joy and disbelief after his latest recovery from two sets to love down, this time against Carlos Moya, the Spanish former world No 1, Martin smashed his racket like a rock star high on emotion and set off on a series of laps of honour, exchanging high-fives with the excited spectators who had remained in the Arthur Ashe Stadium until the contest ended at 1.22am. The United States Tennis Association deserves credit for inviting them to come on down from seats dotted about the vast bowl and form a hearty courtside chorus during the final set.

"I think I just lost control and did a few things that were out of character," Martin said. "One of my friends who was watching on TV rang me up and said what I did with the racket reminded him of Pete Townsend. I didn't want to use the racket any more. In fact, it will be one of the items in a charity auction I'm doing. Perhaps it will one bought by somebody who doesn't want to use it."

Exactly what Martin will do for an encore if he goes on to win the title is anybody's guess, but the 30-year-old from Michigan can no longer claim to be the strong, silent type. He is still two matches away from the final, with Sweden's Thomas Johansson to overcome in the quarters and either Marat Safin or Nicolas Kiefer waiting in the semis.

In a match reminiscent of Martin's Lazarus impersonation against Greg Rusedski in the fourth round last year - the British No 2 led by two sets and 5-2, was unable to serve the match out at 5-4 in the third and lost a 4-1 lead in the fifth, - the unseeded Martin prevailed, 6-7, 6-7, 6-1, 7-6, 6-2, after four hours and 15 minutes.

Martin saved a match point on his serve at 6-5 in the fourth-set tie-break and salvaged 17 of 18 break points. Once again we asked ourselves if this greying gladiator could possibly be the same Todd Martin who lost to MaliVai Washington in the 1996 Wimbledon semi-finals after leading 5-1 in the fifth set.

Tuesday's effort took so much out of him that he was put on an IV drip immediately after the match. "After I got off the court the stifness and other sensations were setting in," he said.

It was Martin's seventh comeback from 0-2 down and his fourth time at the US Open - the previous three were against Jordi Burillo in 1993, Guillaume Raoux in 1994 and Rusedski in 1999. Martin opened the year by recovering from 0-2 against Byron Black of Zimbabwe in the first round of the Australian Open, winning 8-6 in the fifth set.

Lleyton Hewitt took only an hour and 53 minutes yesterday in defeating Arnaud Clement of France 6-2, 6-4, 6-3, to advance to his first Grand Slam semi-final. The 19-year-old Australian, seeded ninth, will play either Pete Sampras or Richard Krajicek.

Hewitt has only dropped one set in his five matches. He hit a career-high 18 aces against Clement, who, it may be remembered, eliminated Andre Agassi, the top seed, in straight sets in the second round.

"I didn't come here expecting to win the event and it would be stupid of me to say that," Hewitt said. "I am going to have to play a big server in the next round, whoever it is. Beating Sampras in the final at Queen's gave me a lot of confidence. I haven't played Krajicek before."

Martina Hingis, top seed in the women's singles, will have to end Venus Williams' winning sequence of 24 consecutive matches tonight if she is to advance to a fourth successive US Open final. Hingis, who conceded only four games against Williams in the 1997 final, overcame her in three sets in last year's semi-finals, only to lose to the American's younger sister, Serena Williams, in the final.

Spectators will be hoping for a reprise of the memorable contest between Venus Williams and Hingis in the Wimbledon quarter-finals. Williams won 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, going on to win the final. "I hope it's not going to be too nerve-wracking for us and that it's going to be another good match," Hingis said, having won a peculiar match against Monica Seles, 6-0, 7-5, in the quarter-finals.

Seles, the sixth seed, looked only a shell of a player in the opening set, which passed her by in 13 minutes, and trailed 1-3 in the second before her shots began to carry their old authority. "I really started off the match very sluggishly," Seles said. "I tried to get back into it in the end, but it was way too late."

The former world No 1 has not been able to find a satisfactory answer in the sixth months since her last meeting with Hingis, who beat her 6-0, 6-0 in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Elena Damentieva, 18, of Russia, advanced to her first grand slam semi-final, defeating Germany's Anke Huber, the 10th seed, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

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